tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN October 27, 2015 9:00am-11:01am EDT
can we get a picture? >> sure. thank you so much. >> could we get a picture? >> sure. >> first generation chinese-american. >> excellent. excellent. i want to earn your vote. and we're live on capitol hill this morning for a hearing with defense secretary ashton carter and new joint chiefs of staff chair general joseph dunford. they'll be testifying before the senate armed services committee about u.s. military strategy in the middle east. should get under way in a moment. this is live coverage on c-span 3.
good morning. the committee meets today to receive testimony on u.s. strategy in the middle east, and i want to thank our distinguished witnesses for appearing this morning and for their service to our nation. before i proceed, i'd like to remind our witnesses this committee's rules require written testimony be submitted 24 hours in advance of a hearing, and i'd like to try from now on for our witnesses to adhere to that.
the tragic loss last week of master sergeant joshua walker, a veteran of 14 combat deployments reminds us of the high stakes of our mission in the middle east and how grateful we are to americans serving there. we need a strategy worthy of those who carry it out and, unfortunately, we don't have that. what's worse it appears the administration has not even defined the problem correctly. a policy of isil first fails to understand that eye significant for all of the threat it poses is actually a symptom of another power that's now raging across the middle east. the epicenter of which is iraq and syria. that is why isil exists today with the strength that it does, and this problem will only get worse the longer this conflict rages on. we hear it said all the time,
quote, there is no military solution to this problem, which is a truism, but that, too, is misleading. the real problem is that there can be no diplomatic solution without leverage and there's a clear military dimension to this problem. secretary kerry can take all the trips he wants to geneva but unless the power changes on the grand, diplomacy will achieve nothing. changing those conditions is what the administration has consistently failed to do. instead it is assumes we could avoid the conflict at its hard. on those occasions when the administration has felt compelled to respond after the use of chemical weapons or with the rise of isil and now amid the worst jeff gee crisis in europe since world war ii, the administration has addressed the
symptoms of the underlying problem rather than the problem it self and all too often made the problem worse. there is no clear example of this than the syrian train and equip program. they said they could only fight isil, not assad's forces, which have slaughtered and displaced more syrians than isil has. in addition the administration made no commitment until only recently to provide these forces with any meaningful support once they returned to syria. after millions of dollars and months of effort, the program failed to come anywhere close to the department's original expectations. the president has expressed surprise about this failure. it was not a surprise. it was completely predictable, and many of us here did predict it. only someone who does not understand the real problem, the
underlying conflict in syria and iraq, or does not care to, could think that we could effectively recruit and train large numbers of sunni syrians to fight only against isil. with no promise of coalition assistance if they came under fire from assad's forces. rather than fixing the problem, the president suspended it. but this is tantamount to killing the program because it's destroying what little trust our partners have left in us to say nothing of allies like turkey and jordan that invested their own money and prestige in the program. the president now says incredibly the failure of this program, his program, the president's program, proves he was right for not wanting to do it in the first place. harry truman must be spinning in his grave. if there is an option for commander in chief, this is it.
the training and effort -- the training effort in iraq has its own challenges. indeed, it is deja vu all over again. we don't have enough u.s. forces to train and advise iraqi units at the right levels. we're still not providing sufficient support to sunni tribes which are the center of gravity in this fight against isil. we're looking the other way as shia militias go on the defensive in the sunni heartland. we hear complaints that iraqis have no will to fight, but we're prohibiting u.s. forces from bolstering their will to fight by advising them in combat or calling in air strikes. we learned all of these lessons in iraq just a few years ago. apparently we have to relive these failures now. for nearly seven years the administration has tried to extract america from the middle east. instead we have created a massive power vacuum that has been filled by isil, al qaeda, and its affiliates on the one hand and iran and its proxies on the other. now into this vacuum has stepped
vladimir putin. putin's intervention really began in ukraine. the administration's failure to impose greater costs on russia particularly by providing defensive arms to ukrainian forces, allowed putin to annex crimea, dictate the terms of conflict in eastern ukraine and then pivot to syria. it's also confirmed putin's belief that the administration is weak and, to putin, weakness is provocative. the administration's response thus far to russia's intervention in syria has only made this problem worse. first, it urged russia not to build up its forces in syria. putin ignored these warnings, the administration then tried to deny russia the airspace to move into syria and failed. putin responded by bombing moderate syrian forces, many of whom are allied with the united states, and what has been the result, the number of u.s. air strikes in syria has dropped. the train and equip program was
halted just as it was starting to show some battlefield results. and the administration scrambled to pen a so-called deconfliction agreement with the russians that spells out more of what we will not do in syria. indeed, this agreement means the united states is now moving out of the way and watching as russian aircraft together with iranian, hezbollah, and assad's ground forces attack and kill brave syrians, many of whom our nation has supported and encouraged. this is not only harmful to our interests, it is immoral. what we must do to hasten the end of the conflict in syria and iraq, in particular we must stop assad's use of airpower and horrific barrel bombs, the major killer and drivers of refugees out of the region. we must establish areas in syria where civilians can be safe and do what is necessary to protect these areas in the air and on the ground. we must recognize that putin is
not interested in a negotiated solution in syria that favors u.s. interests. so we should instead impose real costs on russia, not just in syria but everywhere we have leverage to do so. finally, as general david petraeus has recently said, we must devise a strategy to confront iranian power and designs in the region rather than acquiescing to them. some will object as they have for years that we cannot bear the costs of these actions, but consider the costs of our current inaction and half measures. mass atrocities in syria will continue. our allies and partners in the middle east will be put at greater risk of existential danger. europe will continue to be destabilized and consumed by the internal challenge of managing the refugee challenge. the can certain of isil will grow more potent and spread across more of the middle east, africa and asia, posing a greater threat to our national security. iran will be emboldened in its
pursuit of its maligned regional ambitions. putin will establish russia as a dominant military power in the middle east for the first time in four decades and all the while america's credibility and influence will continue to erode. make no mistake, this is the course we are now on. this will be the consequences of our current policy. no one believes there are easy answers to the underlying problems in the middle east. but this much should be clear. we cannot go on pretending that we can somehow avoid these problems or that the current approach of trying to treat the symptoms of the disease rather than its cause will work if only we give it more time. it will not. policies of gradual escalation never do. senator reed? >> thank you very much, mr.
chairman. let me join the chairman in welcoming back secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. thank you for your service. today's hearing comes in the midst of a series of events altering the current situation in the middle east, a massive wave of refugees fleeing, the deployment of russian air and ground forces in syria, the suspected isil attack on turkey that killed over 100 people and injured hundreds more during a peace rally in ankara and the deployment of mcfarland, the new commander of operation inherent resolve. secretary kerry's recent meetings with the foreign ministers of russia, turkey and saudi arabia. in addition, the hearing also comes only weeks before the g-20 summit in turkey where these issues and the international response will be at the forefront. general mcfarland has been in the command of military operations in syria on iraq for a little more than 45 days and the stand he has used to evaluate the situation on the ground and may be recommendation
changes of the campaign. the coalition military campaign requires a reevaluation of our strategy. in syria the coalition faces intermingled conflict including the isil fight, the syrian civil war, the regional proxy war between the gulf states and iran. sectarian sunni conflict and the intervention of russia, a potential great power struggle. considering these challenges, it is important that we it continually assess the role of our nation's military in helping to bring about susceptible and sustainable settlement n. iraq the recent visit by chairman dunford and us a it continue have focused attention the coalition's effort to train and equipment the iraqi security forc forces. however, taken as a whole, they have not shown the will to make necessary advances in the operation to take ramadi, for example. and the political leaders in baghdad have not made the progress in the broader gender of inclusiveness of the iraqi government in addressing the
long-standing kurds, sunnis, shias. the recent operation by kurdish peshawari forces, demonstrated that such targeted efforts can have significant success in protecting innocent civilians in degrading isil. these kinds of operations can support the coalition's broader campaign against isil. while these operations are obviously not without risk, the time may have come to evaluate whether our troops can play a more active role in enabling the isf, including by accompanying the forces at lower echelons especially when direct contact with the enemy is not expected. according to reports, the coalition's provisions of air support to kurdish forces have shown success in northern syria. the recent decision by the administration to equip a group of sunni tribes who have come together to form syrian-arab
coalition to fight along syrian kurdish forces place additional pressure on isil and the surrounding areas. if successful this would be a positive development towards the objectives of the broader campaign. however, i am concerned that the decision to completely suspend the department's training and equip program may not enable us to accomplish our goals in syria where the program failed to live up to heightened expectations. the combined joint interagency task force had recently recalibrated the program based on lessons learned and that later graduates having a direct impact as enablists in the fight against isil. it cannot succeed without a reliable sunni force on the ground to hold any territorial gains. building this force will require time and patience and critically it will require building of trust through training engagements and persistent contact between the coalition and our new partners on the ground to help the secretary and the secretary will provide a clear understanding of the
conditions required to re-engage in training of vetted individuals or small groups. the deployment of shrussian fors into syria and their indiscriminate operations have the potential to set off another wave of refugees across europe. more specifically russia's military operations in syria have complicated the coalition air campaign and have the potential to draw the attention of moderate syrian opposition forces away from counter isil operations. russian operations have also negatively impacted the distribution of humanitarian and other nonlethal aid to the syrian people. i hope general mcfarland will have modifications to the campaign against isil, i would be interested in your recommendations for how to ensure general mcfarland receives the flexibility and support needed to be successful going forward. thank you and i look forward to your testimony. >> welcome to the witnesses. secretary carter? >> thank you, mr. chairman and
ranking member reed, members of the committee, thanks for inviting us to come here today before to you discuss the counter isil campaign in iraq and syria, and along the way to address some of the concerns, mr. chairman, that you raised and to share with you senator reed some of the plans and initiatives we are formulating for our campaign in both iraq and syria. this is the first time for me appearing before this committee alongside chairman joe dunford, who was just in region last week, as was noted. i'm grateful to joe for answering my and the president's call to step down from what every marine knows is a higher position, namely commandant of the marine corps to become head of chief of staffs and thank you for confirming joe. i'm glad to have you here with me today. before i turn to the subject of
today's hearing i want to reiterate as i've said consistently since march and continue to believe that washington needs to come together behind a multiyear budget deal that supports our defense strategy. the troops and their families and all elements of americans' national security and strength. i understand significant progress was made on this overnight, and i'm looking forward to reviewing the details. but i welcome this major positive development and applaud the members of this committee for what you're doing to help us get there. the middle east presents a kaleidoscope of challenges, but there, as everywhere, our actions and strong military posture are guided by what's in america's interests. that's our north star. and amid this region's complexity and uncertainty, those interests are to deter aggression, to bolster the security of our friends and allies, he especially israel, t ensure freedom of navigation in
the gulf, to check iran's malign influence even as we monitor the implementation of the joint comprehensive plan of action. and to degrade and ultimately defeat isil. this last one, isil, poses a threat to our people and friendly countries not only in the middle east but around the world. today i will first outline the changes in the execution of our strategy that we have considered and are now pursuing militarily to gather battlefield momentum in the fight against isil. then i'll address what russia is doing in syria and why we won't let it interfere with our campaign against isil. when i last spoke to this committee about our counter isil campaign and its nine lines of essential military and nonmilitary effort, i made three things clear about the military aspects. first, that we will deliver isil a lasting defeat.
second, that truly lasting success would require enabling capable, motivated local forces on the ground recognizing that this will take time and new diplomatic energy. and, third, that our strategy's execution can and must and will be strengthened. all of that's still true. our determination is unchanged even as the situation continues to evolve and we continue to adapt to execute our campaign more effectively. and today i'd like to elaborate on the third point and explain how we're adapting our campaign to do more reinforcing what we know works. the changes we're pursuing can be described by what i call the three rs -- raka, ramadi and raids. before i explain what they mean, i took actions to streamline command and control of the counter isil military campaign
by assigning the entire effort to a single general officer, lieutenant shawn mcfarland. several layers were added to the officer already present in iraq. the first r is raka, isil's strong hold and administrative capital. we will support fighting isil that have made territorial gains. indeed some of them are within 30 miles today. the syrian/arab coalition which we plan to strengthen through our new equipment approach, more on that in a moment, will work over time with other syrian anti-isil forces to push towards
rocca. we plan to further strengthen our partner jordan. and include coalition aircraft to target isil with a higher and heavier rate of strikes. also its oil enterprise, a pillar of the financial infrastructure. as i said last friday we've already begun to amp up these deliberate strikes. part of the pressure includes our new approach to the syria train and equipment program. i, like president obama and part of this committee was disappointed with the program's results. we accordingly examined the program this summer and have since changed it. i use the word change not end change the program. the old approach was to train and equipment forces outside of
syria before sending them into the fight. the new approach is to work with vetted leaders of groups that are already fighting isil. and provide equipment and some training to them and support their operations with airpower. this approach builds on successes that local syrian-arab and kurdish forces have made along syria's northern border to retake and hold ground from isil with the help of u.s. air strikes and equipment resupplies. if done in concert as we intend, all these actions on the ground and from the air should help shrink isil's territory into a smaller and smaller area and create new opportunities for targeting isil. ultimately denying this evil movement any safe haven in its supposed heart lapped.-íql÷ supposed heartland. ramadi serves as the commitment to work with local schedules. to retake and hold ground from
isil and, in turn, build momentum to eventually go northward to mosul. under prime minister abadi's leadership the iraqis have begun to use american-made f-16s to support counter isil operations and have empowered capable battlefield commanders to step forward. as we see more progress towards assembling capable and motivated iraqi forces under baghdad's control and including sunni elements, we're willing to continue to provide more enabling capabilities and fire support to help them succeed. however, the iraqi government and security forces will have to take certain steps militarily to make sure our progress sticks. we need to see more in the direction of multisectarian governance and defense leadership. for example, we've given the iraqi government two battalions worth of equipment for moenlizing sunni tribal forces as we continue to provide the
support the iraqi government must ensure it is distributed effectively. local sunni forces aren't sufficiently equipped, regularly paid and empowered as co-equal members of the forces. isil's defeats in anbar will only be temporary. the third and final "r" is raids. signaling that we won't hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against isil or conducting such missions directly whether by sfrix from the air or direct action on the ground. last week's rescue operation was led by iraqi/kurdish forces with u.s. support. one of those accompanied advisers joshua wheeler, heroically acted to ensure the overall success of the mission and lost his life in the process. the death of any service member is a tragedy. and as i told his family and teammates this weekend, we offer
our condolences to master sergeant wheeler's loved ones for their loss. while our mission is to train in situations such as that operation where we have actionable intelligence and a partner force, we want to support our partners and we will. at the same time the raid on abusayef's home and most recently al nasr should serve notice to isil and other terrorist leaders that once we locate them no target is beyond our reach. as we've looked at how to gather momentum and adapt to the changing battlefield, some have discussed putting in a buffer zone, humanitarian zone, or no-fly zone in syria. we have analyzed various options and the political and military requirements of each. these options are complex and raise some challenges which i'm prepared to discuss in answer to
your questions. let me now turn to russia's involvement in syria. to be clear, we are not cooperating with russia and we're not letting russia impact the pace or scope of our campaign against isil in iraq and syria. while we negotiated a document on safety of flight with the russian minister of defense, we do not align ourselves more broadly with their military actions because instead of singularly attacking isil, as they said they were going to do, they're primarily attacking the syrian opposition as the chairman has noted which further fuels the tragic civil war there. their actions suggest a doubling down on their long-standing relationship of assad sending advisers, artillery and aviation to enable and support the assad regime and iranian forces in attacking moderates who oppose the regime and are essential to syria's political transition. and it appears the vast majority of the strikes by some estimates as high as 85% to 90% use dumb
bombs. which obviously increases the possibility of civilian casualties. those russia acts in a coalition of two with iran, the united states will continue to strengthen our 65 nation global coalition. even as we've reached an understanding with the russians on safety protocols for coalition pilots over syria we will keep prosecuting our counter isil campaign unabated. we will keep supporting the moderate syrian opposition along with our other commitments to friends and allies in the region. and consistent with our strong and balanced approach towards russian aggression elsewhere in the world including nato and ukraine, we will keep the door open for russia to contribute to efforts towards the political solution in which in the final answer analysis is the only answer to the syrian conflict. i've discussed the military strategy and accompanying campaign. before i conclude i remind the
committee defeating isil and protecting america requires coordinated efforts across all of the so-called nine lines of effort, to include supporting effective governance in iraq, enhancing intelligence, disrupting isil's financing, countering isil's messaging, stopping the flow of foreign fighters, providing humanitarian support, and protecting our homeland where other departments and agencies of our government have the lead. thank you. >> chairman mccain, ranking members of the committee, thanks for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss our challenges in the middle east and specifically the military dimension of our campaign against isil. i've been in my current position for just short of four weeks and spent much of that time reviewing our counter-isil campaign. i also followed up on the commitment i made in my c confirmation hearing to visit the region early in my tenure. last weekend to get a personal perspective on the campaign i visited israel, jordan and iraq.
i was extremely impressed with the focus of our sailors, soldiers, airmen and marines and thanks to your support you can report they are well trained and equipped. before taking your questions i'd like to share a few thoughts on the counter isil military campaign in iraq and syria. isil's primary source of strength is its claim to be a caliphate, to be successful the coalition's military campaign must reduce isil's territorial control, destroy its war fighting capability and undermine its brand and aura of invincibility. there are two critical elements of a military campaign. the first is to conduct strikes against isil targets. the strikes are intended to kill key leadership and fighters, interdict their lines of communication and deny them sources of revenue. the second critical element in a military campaign is to develop and support effective partners on the ground, to seize and secure isil held terrain. many weeks before i became the chairman the leadership across the department recognized that we needed to increase pressure on isil for multiple directions
to generate momentum in the coalition's military campaign. as with any campaign we're continuing to examine ways to enhance the effectiveness of our operations. but we all recognize isil is a transregional threat requiring a broader strategy. the immediate priority is to bear down on core isil across iraq and syria simultaneously. the framework for the campaign is the same for iraq and syria but the conditions on the ground present unique challenges and opportunities. the end state is to defeat isil. without a partner on the ground, syria has clearly presented the most difficult challenge. no one is fasatisfied with our progress to date. we must work with turkish partners to secure the northern border of syria. we must do all we can to enable vetted syrian opposition forces willing to fight isil, and we must be more aggressive in strikes that will deny isil the access they have to oil revenue. the secretary has already addressed the adjustments to the
syrian train and equip program and i support the refine approach. there will be challenges, we'll be supporting groups who have already demonstrated the will to fight isil. our support will be contingent upon their attacking objectives in meeting specific standards. we look for opportunities to support vetted opposition groups in both the north and along the border with jordan. in our initial efforts to build ground forces in syria major general and his team were operating under extraordinarily difficult conditions. and i'd like to thank them for their hard work. due to their efforts we have a much better understanding of the operating environment and the opportunities. we'll be able to leverage their initiative and lessons learned as we make corrections. last week we began to move the campaign forward in another important way by striking a major oil facility and source of revenue for isil. based on superb analytic work and planning centcom can accelerate and broaden efforts against isil's economic means.
the central command is continuing to work with turkey to secure the border area in northwest syria. we still have some work to do. in iraq we've also been frustrated with the pace of operations. that said, there's been recent progress and movement around ramadi and the progress has been made. we have developed a variety of options to do that. to be successful in syria and iraq in addition to the initiatives i've mentioned and those outlined by the secretary, we also need to continue to prove how we enhance our leverage capabilities and do more to cut the flow of foreign fighters, have a better understanding of these two issues after my visit and those will be a priority for me in the days ahead. we will also continue to look hard at other ways to increase the effectiveness of coalition operations in the tempo of the campaign. the secretary and the president have made it clear that they expect me to bring to them all the options that may contribute
to our winning the fight against isil. i've made a commitment to them that i would do that, and i'll meet that commitment. in closing, as i complete my initial assessment of the campaign, i believe we've identified and started to implement the number of initiatives to move the campaign forward. we're not satisfied or complacent about where we are and we won't be satisfied until isil is defeated. thank you again for the opportunity to join us and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, very much. secretary carter, the president's spokesman, after it was clear the arm and train and equipment by the dod program had failed, the president's spokesman said that the president was -- felt vindicated the program failed because he never supported it to start with. this is a program that we invested $43 million, at least, in a $500 million program.
i'm not sure how many young people were killed in trying to implement this failed program. did you feel vindicated when this program failed? >> i want to repeat something the chairman just said. i think general ngata who was given this program, it was conceived last summer -- >> i just asked the question whether you felt vindicated or not. >> no, i was disappointed in it. i wished it had turned out differently. however, we are learning our lessons and our new approach differs and i can describe the difference between the old and the new but we think that we have learning lessons from that. >> so you don't feel vindicated? >> i was disappointed. >> but the president felt vindicated according to his spokesperson in this change that
you are talking about and already we're seeing some of the changes does that mean some of the young people we change and equip that we're going to protect them from being barrel bombed and attacked by russian aircraft? >> i think we conveyed the same obligation last time i was before you. >> right now as we speak russian aircraft are bombing -- right now as we speak russian aircraft are bombing moderate syrian forces in syria while we have deconflicted. do you believe we should be protecting those young people? >> our title 10 forces, we have an obligation to protect. we've stated that. >> are we protecting them? are we protecting them? >> they're operating -- they have not come under attack by either assad's forces or russia's forces. >> russia's air has not been attacking -- no, no, i'm asking about the moderate syrian force that is are there.
>> i was speaking of our -- >> i'm asking the question about some of those we trained and equipment, moderate syrian forces now being bombed by russia. >> with respect to the title 10 forces, they have not come under attack. >> none of the moderate forces, some of whom we've trained, have not come under attack from russia? >> not in our title 10 program, no. >> that's a fascinating. >> let me be clear, chairman, the russians and obviously assad do attack moderate syrian forces. >> yes. >> which are supported by the international coalition, and one of the reasons the russian approach is so -- >> so are we going to train these young people -- are we going to send them into syria to fight? are we going to protect them from being barrel bombed by bashar assad and protected from russia? >> the ones that we -- >> anyone we send in and train
we're going to protect from russian air attacks? >> we have an obligation to do that. we made that clear. >> we haven't done it. i promise you they have. you will have to correct the record. general petraeus and former secretary gates and now secretary clinton have all stated they think we should stop the barrel bombing and should train and equip and we should have no-fly zone or aircraft exclusionary zones. i might point out we were able to do northern watch and southern watch rather successfully in iraq although it's not exactly the same. are you suggesting we stop the barrel bombing that has been
suggested to stop the barrel bombing to provide an aircraft exclusionary zone? in order to protect the innocent civilians that are being driven into refugee status in the greatest refugee situation since the end of world war ii? >> chairman, we have, as i indicated in my statement, analyzed zones of various kinds. buffer zones and no-fly zones that i can give you some of the consideration. >> and stop the barrel bombing. >> that would be one of the intents of a no-fly zone. i can tell you some of the considerations. >> i'd just like to know whether you support or not. >> we have not made the recommendation to the president. he has not taken it off the table. i can explain some of the reasons for our recommendation -- >> it's not an issue that has not been examined, secretary carter. it's been recommended for years.
you have to examine it all over again? >> we've looked at it quite closely. and i'm prepared to describe it. i know the chairman is as well. >> it's not -- it's a matter -- it's an issue that's been on the table for three or four years that i know of. it's not that we received information when general dempsey said it would cost a billion dollars a day or something. incredible. it's not a new issue. >> it is a substantial military -- >> so it seems to me you should have a position on it. >> we have not recommended that. we have analyzed it and presented -- >> so you do not support -- you do not agree with general petraeus and former secretary gates and secretary clinton? >> we do not have a concept of operations for a no-fly zone at this time. >> after all these years we don't have a concept of operation? >> that we're prepared to
recommend. >> senator reed? >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. mr. secretary, i just want to clarify. you have spoken exclusively about forces trained by defense. you kept title 10 but a lot of titles in the u.s. code. there are other forces on the ground that our coalition partners have trained that have come under attack by the russians. that's clear, correct? >> absolutely true. >> but the forces that are subject to direct training by the department of defense have been placed in areas which for many reasons have not been subject to aerial attack. >> well, they're fighting isil. >> let me go back to the train and equip program. it has shifted from trying to train individual units, insert those units into the isil fight
to identifying leaders and providing some training to the leader and then some support. there's another aspect of this approach which i'd like to clarify. that is training not just leaders but individual enablers, people with technical skills that can go into a deployed unit and provide those skills. is that still being done? >> that is part of the approach, part of the old approach as well. the big difference is rather than trying to form brand-new units we're identifying units that are already fighting isil. providing them equipment and, as you point out, after vetting leadership providing them with selected abilities that help them leverage our enablement particularly from the air. >> so the program still is able
to do that and in addition grow not so much units but teams of syrian nationals that can go in as specialists, a whole range of issues, air support, medical support, logistics support, and aid these units? >> exactly. we're very transactional, giving equipment, seeing how they perform, giving more equipment and help, see how they perform. but these are groups that already exist moving in the areas north of raka is an example. >> thank you. general dunford, you just returned from iraq and you had conversations with the prime minister abadi because there were disconcerting reports of.
what's your latest estimate of that? is it something that was a more political statement by the prime minister, or is there actual ongoing real effort? >> senator, thanks. i asked that specific question to all the senior iraqi leaders i met with and explained how difficult it would be for us to continue to provide support if the russians were invited in to conduct air strikes and i was assured at every level that wouldn't be the case. can i follow up on train and equip? >> yes, sir. >> we completely suspended the program, and i wanted to clarify one point. the individuals we had previously trained, we are still supporting them when they're still in the fight. and there are a number of them that are doing exactly the kind of things you spoke about, providing support for forces that are fighting isil. >> and it's based on the secretary's comments, it's our intention to expand that as rapidly as we did. >> and i would just say although
we're talking now about the syrian/arab coalition in training those large groups, my perception of the guidance that we have from the president is were there other opportunities we should bring those forward to him and when i talked to the team on the ground i made that clear to them that when we see opportunities we ought to develop concept of operations, bring that back and expand the program where it will work and we'll look to the northern part in syria and along the jordanian border. >> one final question. you both highlighted this, the inability of the government in baghdad to fully support sunni forces in anbar particularly. and some of that has historic mistrust, et cetera. from your testimony you're considering having american advisers and not at the company level but higher up.
it would allow the government of baghdad to feel that they have some control and in addition demand on behalf of sunni forces they get a fair share. is that part of your thinking going forward? >> it is, senator. i think there are four reasons why you might consider putting forces in a company role. the first is what you're suggesting which is really to bring campaign coherence. i think the other is to ensure logistic support is affected. another challenge is situational awarpness and intelligence and so that would be another advantage of doing that and then also the better delivery of combined arms. so there's really four factors, i think, that would be considered and if it had operational or strategic impact and we could reinforce success that would be the basic framework i'd make a recommendation to be collocated with iraqi units. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> just to make the record clear, secretary carter, there are coalition supported and
american supported forces that are in syria that are being attacked by russian aircraft, is that true or false? >> i'm sorry, mr. chairman, there are moderate syrian opposition forces -- >> coalition supported? >> in syria supported by the coalition and, of course, people that we think are part of syria's future and part of the syrian political transition. they are being attacked and that's not isil. and that's why the russian approach is -- why i called it wrong-headed. >> that's why it's immoral to train people in and watch them go in and fight and watch them being destroyed and maimed and killed. >> for our part -- for our part in our train and equip program, as i said before, we have a moral obligation. >> you are making a distinction without a difference, mr. secretary. these are american-supported and coalition-supported men who are going in and being slaughtered.
>> my understanding, mr. chairman, that senator cotton is presiding so i defer to him and then ask that we return to regular order. >> thank you, senator inhofe. that's the senate equivalent of staff duty for a junior officer. secretary carter, you talked about our nine lives of effort. not all of those are military lines of effort, is that correct? >> that's correct. >> now that jgeneral allen has departed, those nine defense lines of effort, remind me. >> it's a good question and one of the things i have proposed and secretary kerry has accepted that he and i meet periodically with the other agency heads who have the other lines of effort, general allen has been present at those meetings. his successor, ambassador mcgirt, will be present at them, and i thought, one of the things i noticed when i began to look
at this campaign, that since all of these lines of effort it is necessary to have moving in concert, we needed a better effort to do that. so secretary kerry's agreed to do that with me. we've had, i think, four meetings. general dunford was at the last one. before that was foreign fighter flow, both into the conflict region and out of the conflict region to europe, around the world. we are addressing messaging and isil's messages and efforts to recruit people online so there are lots of different dimensions to this that are not military per se but i believe they're opportunities to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts and i've sought to seize
those opportunities with secretary kerry, now with general dunford, and make sure that all of these different efforts are coordinated. they're all important and the other participants are doing important things, the diplomatic people intelligence people and the homeland security and law enforcement folks. but i think the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts. just for your question, that's exactly the intent. >> is that a detailed way of saying there's not a single person taking over all of the non-defense lines of effort? >> there has not been a single person who had that responsibility. general alan, who was superb, had the responsible of assembling the coalition. which did he with great skill and to his credit we have a broad coalition. i'm talking about something different, which is assembling the mechanics of all of the nine lines of effort. that's something i'm undertaking to do with secretary kerry. we're gathering in the other parties that are involved.
ambassador mcgirk will be part of the effort. but i think it's necessary. >> i would like to shift now to russia moving to syria. a few weeks ago before the major russian movement, the united states requested bulgaria and iraq close its airspace to russia. how did we transmit that? >> i do not know what the mechanics of that were. can i get back to you on that, senator? i simply don't know. >> is that something the state department would do, the department of defense, the white house? >> joe, go ahead. >> senator, i believe that message would have been delivered by ambassador jones in baghdad. >> and iraq, obviously, declined our request while bulgaria accepted it? >> declined the request? >> and let russian aircraft fly through nir airspace?
>> there was -- there has been russian aircraft that has flown through iraqi airspace. my understanding it was not at the understanding of the iraqi government. >> does the iraq air force have the capability to protect its own air force and exclude a foreign air force like russia? >> they have limited air to air capability. >> so if the united states government requested the government of iraq close its airspace to russia, surely the united states government was prepared to assist iraq in closing its airspace and stopping russian aircraft from flying over iraq? >> well, it's a sovereign decision by iraq. but i will tell you, we're not uninterested in it. you are raising a very important question, which is, is iraq going to cooperate with the russian -- what i would regard as -- i have called it wrong headed approach in syria. we have received -- i believe
that general dunford received last week from prime minister abe a dein no uncertain terms the statement that he will not work with the russians, he will not allow them to be partners with iraq in that regard that we are the preferred partners of iraq. we have been insisting on that. we intend to have them implemented. but the prime minister has not been ambiguous about that. i believe the most recent conversation was held by general dunford. >> senator, i raised it with the minister of defense and the prime minister and tried to explain to them that our continued support really would be problematic were they to invite the russians in to
conduct strikes. i was assured they had not extended that inty vags and did not intend to do that. >> it's problematic for russia to be resupplying its forces by flying through iraq. we should renew our request. our military should be ready to help them. thank you. >> thank you both for your service and for being here. i think my question would be, what is our end game? the end game would be, we have been bogged down for some time. when i go home to west virginia and talk to the citizens, they say to stop this migration, you're going to have to have a no-fly zone. as the country rebuilds, there's still people there that basically are peace loving, well educated. we haven't made a decision on that. i know the chairman asked directly on that. then i start looking at basically -- with russia's involvement and russia being involved to protect assad,
russia is more involved in working with iran to have some influence of what happens there, in my evaluation. then you look at the united states. we're more concerned about fighting isil, if you will. or it looks to be more so than protecting or fighting with our coalition, who wants to defeat ass assad. what would be the end game? what part are we going to be able to play in this, unless we take on russia or basically check russia from what they're doing? unless we have some type of diplomatic relations with russia, an agreement with russia. i see russia as being in a situation -- they have involved them services to where they're going to be a major broker in that region, because iran seems to be, if you will, more influential as far as in iraq and in syria now with assad being helped and propped up by
russia. we're out there fighting isil. we don't -- we're not protecting the people that can basically put an ease to any security back into syria. i just -- it's a very confusing situation. it's hard for us to say at the end of the day, here is our end game. if somebody has any explanation for that and tells me what we're trying to accomplish, i would be happy to hear it. >> i will take that, senator. for us, the paramount objective is the defeat of isil. that will require -- >> that's our number one priority right now in syria? >> because they're trying to attack america. we have to take that seriously. they must be defeated. >> i'm sorry, mr. secretary. you do agree that russia's primary is to protect assad? >> they said they were going to fight isil. that's not what they're doing. it fuels the civil war, which is the point the chairman was making, and fuelling -- >> we have two different
objectives. the united states and russia has two complete different objectives? >> they say they have the same objective. but their actions belie that. >> they're in line with iran to s -- >> to get to the question of the end game, the end game in syria has to be a transition in which assad is no longer running the country. we would like to see that transition occur in as peaceful and prompt way as possible, because we would like there to be the -- >> is it obvious that basically russia and iran will have more influence on who the next leader or the leadership of syria is going to be than we will? >> i think that -- i don't think they can be sure of that. >> i'm saying their position. >> the future of syria will be in the hands of the syrian people and many of those are syrian moderate opposition
leaders who are being attacked by assad's forces with russia's help right now. >> have we been able to assist the migration of the people from syria as being more of the leaders, more of the well educated, more of the peace loving? >> yes. there's a spectrum there that goes over to extremists like isil all the way with -- >> can i ask general dunford -- i know we talked before on this of this. but it's just -- it's hard to go home and explain our involvement, unless we're going to have a no-fly and protect those that want to be there to protect their country. we're not going to have much to work with. >> the chairman said something important in his opening comments. i think that's what the military campaign is designed to do. that's to provide leverage. i think what we owe the president is options that will allow us the generate the momentum and confidence in the
military campaign against isil that will give us leverage politically. the decision has been made that the issue with assad being is solved politically right now. i think there's two separate approaches here that will come together at some point in the future. one is that we're dealing with isil on the ground. we're doing that militarily. that's with the strikes and partnership capacity that i spoke about a minute ago. there are broader political negotiations that are taking place to determine a future of the transitional government. i think right now it's pretty clear to me what we should be doing on the military side, and that is taking the fight to isil, generating momentum, keeping the coalition together, giving confidence in a campaign. >> if i can just -- mr. chairman, if you would indulge one more. if i can ask, is the rebels or coalition forces which we are supporting in syria -- are they more intent on fighting assad or fighting isil? >> the individuals that we are supporting specifically those in the north are supporting -- fighting isil.
>> more so than assad? >> more so than assad. that includes the syrian arab coalition and the ypg and smaller groups we have supported. we have some other groups that we're beginning to negotiate with in the south that have expressed the same intent. >> thank you, sir. >> thank you, mr. chairman. our committee rules have always been to submit the statements 24 hours in advance. it's really helpful to us in we can get that. so i would ask you in the future hearings to do that. i appreciate the fact that both the chairman and you, secretary carter, mentioned by name josh wheeler. josh wheeler is from oklahoma. he is one who is certainly -- he was a hero before this happened. by his actions, he saved 70
lives of host anl agehostages. i appreciate very much you talking about him. since you were here before, secretary carter, in july, isil still controls much of the northern and western iraq despite more than a year of u.s. air strikes and the loss of ramadi. significant setback. russia continues military buildup in syria as we have been talking about and began operations to support iraq. iran forces in syria have been joined by iranian support forces to support the assad regime. they previously directed attacks on u.s. forces in iraq. we talked about the change in the train and equip program which i would like to elaborate
more on that. in that statement that we got this morning, secretary carter, you said, quote, to be clear, we are not cooperating with russia and we are not letting russia impact the pace and scope of our campaign against isil in iraq and syria. last week -- some time ago we had dr. kissinger in as a witness. but then last week we had five professors that were there in one of our good hearings we had wednesday or thursday. we quoted dr. kissinger when he said, quote, syria is the latest symptom of a disintegration of the american role in stabilizing the middle east order, end quote. now, do you think that's inconsistent with the statements that you have made, secretary carter? >> i think that the middle east
is certainly a very tumultuous -- but once again i come back to our role is to protect american interests in that circumstance. >> but our -- >> whether it be the fight against isil, our alliances and partnerships with gulf countries and israel, our posture in the gulf. all of that is intended to protect american interests in the middle east. as the;.sw÷ middle east -- is i m tumultuo tumultuous? >> you bet it is. >> what do you think, general dunford, in terms of kissinger's statement in terms of our role in that part of the world? >> what i would agree with former secretary kissinger is that we have a critical role to play in the middle east. we have national interests in the middle east. we should be desicisively engag
in advancing those. >> i know this is about the middle east and ukraine is another good example of what our posture is in that part of the world. a lot of us here were -- i was there during the last election that they had in october. for the first time in 96 years, they don't have one communist in their parliament in the ukraine. poroshenko -- that was a pro-western effort. and then immediately putin started killing them all. our response was sending blankets and k rations. they don't call them k rations anymore. do you agree that this is the right response that we should have had, to maintain what you have always perceived to be our role? senator, i don't want to be evasive. i'm not sure it would be appropriate for me to comment on
an issue of policy and what we ought to do. my job is to provide military options to our leadership in support of the policy. >> okay. we have been -- let me ask you a question. i don't know. what is the current status of fallujah? >> right now, it's being held by insurgents. that is one of the areas that's been identified for future operations by iraqi security forces. >> it has been identified. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator heinrich, can't make it up. >> secretary carter, if there is one lesson it seems to me we should have learned in the middle east and north africa by now is that every time we think it can't get worse if there's not an end game, it can. removing hussein at the cost of thousands of american lives gave
us a chaotic siecivil war and ethnic war that helped spawn isil. we removed a brutal dictator in libya to see chaos and extremism reign across what can now only loosely be called a country. to reference senator mansion's comments that we need to think about an end game here, i think about the fact that many of our colleagues now believe that the solution to syria today is to focus directly on the removal of the assad regime rather than the current administration focus on isil. i want to ask you, were the assad regime to fall without a plan in place for follow on governance and a political settlement that could create some sort of stability, how confident are you that syria wouldn't just slip into an even more chaotic state? potentially threatening our allies in the region, creating new opportunities for isil and
creating a new wave of refugees that could make the current outpouring of refugees look modest. >> the end game we seek is both a defeat of isil and a transition in syria. and you are right, the sooner that occurs, the more likely it is that the structures of syrian society aren't completely destroyed by the time that transition occurs. that's why hastening that political transition, assad out and the political forces to include the moderate syrian forces now opposing assad have the tuopportunity to rebuild th country. that's the only way to put syria back together. the sooner that occurs, the better. that's why we're supporting that political transition. but we have to defeat isil. they have to be militarily defeated. >> my point with respect to assad is that, should assad
fall, we need to be thinking about what comes next. so it's not just an opportunity for isil and other extremist groups in the region. >> i believe the talks that secretary kerry is having with various partners, parties in the region this week are precisely aimed at deciding what the contours of that political settlement would be and what would come after it. one of the reasons why it's so important that this occur quickly is that the structures of the syrian state are going to be important in the future. we don't want them to disintegrate entirely. that's why fuelling the syrian civil war, which is what the russians are doing, is so wrong headed. >> general dunford, with respect to the potential no-fly zone issue that was brought up earlier, what would be the limitations of that kind of course of action given particularly the new fairly
sophisticated air defenses from russia that are now inside syria? >> senator, from a military perspective, we can implement a no-fly zone. and we have the capability to do that. the challenges are mritpoliticad legal and a diversion of the resources fighting isil in support of the no-fly zone. those are among the factors we are considering. >> moving back to you, secretary carter. during your previous appearance before this committee in july, you emphasized that the prime minister was doing everything he could recruit sunnis to the fight. you said that, quote, only sunnis can take back anbar. do you still feel this way? you can update the committee on the progress or lack of progress in training iraqi security forces? >> it is still true. the recapture of western iraq is going to require sunni forces
that participate in that recapture. and then, of course, that keep the peace after the peace is won. that's why we're so intent on getting sunni fighters into the fight. the legacy of prime minister malaki was to make it more sectarian to the detriment of the sunnis. i think the prime minister is trying. i think -- i'm going to be honest. >> a lot of the damage has been done. >> well, but if we're going to reverse it, we need to try to recruit, pay, arm and equip sunni forces. that is our purpose. that's what we're doing with the iraqis. that needs to be part of the future. if i can also address the no-fly zone. i just want to be clear, we have studied the no-fly zone as the chairman is right. i thought -- i will give you some of the considerations that go into that. by the way, the president hasn't
taken anything like this off the table. you asked whether we have recommended that at this stage. we have not. a no-fly zone would be intended to prevent the syrian air force from -- as the chairman said, barrel bombing or using air power, fixed wing and rotary wing against the civilian population. where they're doing that is over in the western part of the country, which is not the area where we're flying in now, because we're flying and attacking isil further to the east. that area is protected by the syrian integrated air defense system. so were we to fly there, we would need to deal with the syrian integrated air defense system, which is a substantial undertaking of its own, which we have analyzed. and we have capabilities to do.
then we would be interdicting fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft that were attacking the syrian population. i should note that, however, that most of the civilian casualties inflicted by assad's forces on the civilian population have been from artillery. obviously, this wouldn't do anything about arartillery. but it would do something about air strikes. it's a substantial new undertaking. we have not made the recommendation to do it at this time. i respect people for making recommendations for these kind of zones. there are humanitarian zones which have been referenced which are a portion of syria now speaking conceptually where people could congregate and be protected. those zone thus created would be contested by isil at a minimum.
and so it would have to be defended. again, it's a substantial military undertaking. the people who live there would therefore take a ground force with accompanying air forces to accomplish that. the people who were protected could be people who live there or -- i think some people who have moved into turkey whom turkey wishes to move back. but i just want to be clear that to keep it safe would require fighting to keep it safe. because the people who want to terrorize the population would attempt to attack such a zone. so you need to think in each case -- we thought through several different cases -- who is in, who is kept out and how
the enforcement of it is done. so there are air zones and ground zones. we have considered all of them. the president hasn't taken anything off the table. we have not made any specific recommendations. we have looked at such possibilities. >> senator graham? >> thank you, to my colleagues, for letting me jump ahead. i appreciate it very, very much. i want to see if i've got this right. we're going to train people inside of syria to fight assad -- isil rather than training them outside of syria, equip them inside and train them inside, right? new strategy. >> yes. that's where they are. >> okay. count me in for trying to help. do we still want to replace assad? >> absolutely. >> is that a goal of ours? >> yes. a transition from assad to a government of syria that is
moderate and together. >> general dunford, is it smart to let russia fight isil and we stay out of the fight? >> russia is not fighting isil. we need to advance our own national interests. i'm not confident that russia effectively doing that. >> i'm a million percent with you. are we going to provide air support for the people we train? >> we are. >> do those people want to take assad down? >> the ones we are supporting right now are focused on isil. >> do tlhey have a goal to take assad down? >> we don't know. >> what do you mean? don't you think most people in syria want two things, they want to destroy isil and get rid of ass assad, the person who killed 250,000 of their family?
is that really a mystery? >> no, it's not. >> it's not a mystery. okay. is russia going to fight for assad? >> russia is fighting for assad. >> will iran fight for assad? >> they doing that. >> will hezbollah fight for assad? >> they are doing that. >> when the people we train to fight isil turn on assad, are we going to fight with them to replace assad? >> i can't answer that question, senator. >> can you answer it, secretary carter? >> just to be clear, let's take the -- >> that day is coming. >> well -- >> do you see a scenario where the people of syria don't take on assad? >> the people that we are equipping are people who live in or come from isil-occupied territory. >> do they want to take assad down? do they want to take assad down? >> for the most part, they're focused on -- >> do they want to take -- have
you asked them? >> we know what their intent is. is t is to fight isil. >> you know as well as i do, both of you know that the average syrian not only wants to destroy isil but they're intent on destroying assad because he has killed 250,000 of them. here is the question. for this committee. how do we leverage assad leaving when russia is going to fight for him, iran is going to fight for him, hezbollah is fighting for him and we're not going to do a damn thing to help people take him down? you all both know that. when kerry goes over to geneva, he is turning over syria to the russians and to the iranians. is there any credible military threat to assad now that russia, iran and hezbollah is on his side? do you see any credible military threat to take him down, general dunford? >> i think the balance of forces
right now are in assad's advantage. >> not his advantage. he is secure as the day is long. so this is what's happened, folks. the strategy has completely fallen apart. russia, iran and hezbollah are going to fight for their guy. and we're not going to do a damn thing to help the people who want to change syria for the better by getting rid of the dictator. do you see a scenario, secretary kar carter, where we would fight to support an effort to take assad down? that we would fight along people who want to take assad down in syria? is that remotely possible? >> we are -- our approach to removing assad has been to -- >> does it have a military component? >> is it principally a political effort in syria. >> the answer is no -- are we going to fight with people who want to take assad down? are we going to provide them
military help? >> our train and equip program -- >> the answer is no. the answer is no. let me just end this. if i'm assad, this is a good day for me. because the american government has just said, without saying it, that they're not going to fight to replace me. the russians and the iranians and hezbollah, this is a really good day for them, because their guy lass has no military credib threat. so now you tell me what kind of deal we're going to get, folks. i'm sure we'll get a really good deal with this construct. what you've done, gentlemen, along with the president, is you have turned syria over to russia and iran. you have told the people in syria who died by the hundreds of thousands, we're more worried about a political settlement than we are about what follows. all i can say, this is a sad day for america and the region will
pay hell for this, because the arabs are not going to accept this, the people in syria are not going to accept this. this is a half-assed strategy at best. >> i ask the committee to consider a list of 1,663 pending military nominations. all of these nominations have been before the committee the required length of time. is there a motion to report the 1,663 nominations to the senator? >> so moved. >> is there a second? all in favor say aye. the motion carries. >> thank you to the witnesses for your service and testimony. secretary carter, you stated that the primary objective of our actions, as you have described this morning is the defeat of isil. i want to dig into that. i think i'm right on this. we are engaged in activities against isil, military activities in iraq, syria, afghanistan, yemen, libya. and then when we were on -- during that week of congressional recess, the
president sent to congress a war powers letter indicating the detachment of i think 300 american troops to cameroon to assist in activities co-boko haram which have pledged allegiance to isil. >> we're watching isil all over the world, senator, as you know. it has aspirations and tries to metastasiz metastasize, uses the web. we have had and director comey made this clear americans who have self-radicalized. >> actually, that going to be my next question. >> this is around the world. we're watching it around the world, not just ourselves but in law enforcement and intelligence circles. it's one of the reasons why isil needs to be defeated. >> in terms of kinetic activities by the military though, am i right that currently it's iraq, syria,
afghanistan, yemen, libya and then the deployment of troops to cameroon? >> it depends on what you mean by that. you want to go ahead, joe? >> senator, we don't currently have operations ongoing in yemen, direct operations against isil. we don't have operations against libya against isil. our support in cameroon is isr support in support of operations against boko haram. >> but secretary carter -- >> we can get you what we're doing in each country. >> i don't want to get into asking about non-dod title activities. i will omit that. i think the record and public record about activities in those countries is plain. secretary quarter, you indicated we're watching isil in other countries. is it fair to assume, based on your joint professional judgment, that isil continues to mutate and find adherence in other countries and we may well have to contemplate dod activity
against isil in nations other than those that i have mentioned? >> it could come to that. that's why i think we need to kill the source of it, which is in syria and iraq. >> is it fair to assume, you know -- we pray that this is not the case. but the death of master sergeant wheeler may not be the last death of an american service member in this campaign to defeat isil? >> i think we need to be realistic. our people will be in positions they are right now every day. there are people flying right now. there are people training and advising forces there. and they are in harm's way. there's no doubt about it. >> we have lost service personnel before master sergeant wheeler, not necessarily in direct combat or kinetic activity, but they were in
positions of danger because of this mission against isil? >> yes. make no mistake, they in harm's way in this fight against isil, no doubt about it. >> in your professional judgment, your notion that the primary objective is the defeat of isil, how long will that take? >> it needs to be -- i can't tell you how long it will take. but i think that the -- it needs to be soon, which is why we're so intent upon strengthening our effort, which is why we're working with the iraqis and trying to get them to field more sunni forces, strengthening our training and equipping of sunni forces, why we're prepared to do more with those forces in iraq. the president indicated that and indicated a willingness for the chairman and me to make him recommendations in that regard. to enable those sunni forces so that they can take back the sunni territories of iraq and over in syria -- >> if i could --
>> the coalition forces that are intent to get back to the question that senator gra mahams raise -- >> if i could -- when you say soon, let's just be realistic sitting here today. aren't we talking -- with all the countries that we have mentioned and you acknowledged possibility there could be more, aren't we talking about an effort that is likely to be a multi-year effort, certainly well into the next administration? >> that's probably the case. the reason is that the strategy is to -- this is an important part of the strategy. we said it from the beginning. is to support capable and motivated forces that can retake and hold territory, not to try to substitute for them. that's the only way to have a lasting victory. it takes some time to identify
those forces, to motivate those forces, to train those forces. it depends upon the political circumstances in both iraq and syria. so it does depend upon the political circumstances. that isn't something that is anything other than a very real factor there. but that's necessary in order to have a lasting defeat. because we want isil not only to be defeated, but it has to stay defeated. the people who live there need to govern themselves and restore the peace and order. that's what takes the time is to develop those forces. it is hard work. but that's what we're doing in iraq. that's what we're doing in the new train and equip program in syria. it will take some time. >> mr. chair, i will just conclude and say that i think that that answer about the complexity and the fact that
this under any circumstances is going to take significant time is a very relevant one for us. the administration's position about the authority to wage this war is based upon an authorization that was passed on september 18, 2001, before many of us were here, that specifically says the president is authorized to use force against those who planned, authorized or committed the attacks on september 11, 2001. i would renew my observation, i think it would have been far beyond the contemplation of the members of congress who voted on that at the time and beyond the contemplation of those of us who did not vote on that that words would be applying 15 years later toant ef an effort to the count mentioned that may mutate to the other countries that is likely to take a good deal more. i think it's very much time that congress re-visited question of
this authorization and try to provide some underlying legal justification for the ongoing military action. with that, mr. chair, i thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. secretary carter, would you assess isil to be among the most capable rebel groups that are on the syrian battlefield? >> i would. they're ferocious. they're extremely cruel and brutal. and, of course, some of the forces that are not trying to brutalize the population but trying to fight assad are, as has been indicated, more moderate syrian forces. they don't behave that way. that's why they deserve to be and will be part of the syrian political future after assad. >> are you concerned that the russian and iranian attacks are
going to further polarize battlefield and we're going to see more moderate fighters cooperate with isil and i'll nus are a because those groups are more capable? >> that's the point i made to the russians. they are pouring gasoline on the civil war in syria by supporting iraq. they're going to enhance the very extremism that they say they fear and they have ever reason to fear, because now isil and other groups, including syrian opposition groups of all stripes, are turned against russia. russia has had very bitter experience with extremism in their own country. this is why their actions are not consistent with their words and are -- i keep using the phrase, wrong headed. they say they're doing one thing and they're doing another. >> have you told russia not to
attack units that have been trained by the u.s. or to avoid certain areas where u.s. affiliated groups may be operating or have you indicated to the russians in any way that the united states will respond to such attacks? >> we have certainly indicated that we intend to prosecute our counter-isil campaign unchanged. we don't intend to make any changes in it. we're determined to do that. and we haven't. >> you have communicated to the russians that if there are attacks on u.s.-trained troops or u.s.-trained units in any way that we will respond? >> i said earlier in this testimony, i said publically that we have an obligation to the forces that we have trained and equipped to protect them. we intend to do that. >> but that does not include the coalition trained units? >> we don't control all of the opposition forces to assad. this gets back to the earlier
question. our train and equip program that the department of defense runs is oriented toward fighters who is phiing isil. there are others fighting assad. they come under attack by the russians. because some of them deserve to be part of the syrian political future. that's a serious mistake on russia's part. >> whould it be a serious mistae on russia's part to attack any units that have been trained by other agencies besides the department of defense? would we have a response in that case? >> that's something we would have to talk about separately, senator. >> under secretary warmath stated that article two of the constitution allows the president to use force again of the assad if he attacks syrian rebels trained by the u.s. i would assume that a similar determination has been made with respect to using force against russian planes if they attack
u.s.-trained rebels? is that true? >> let me just repeat what i said. for the department of defense forced that we are training and equipping in syria, we have an obligation to protect them. they're fighting isil. they're far from the territory that is contested or where the russians are operated. but we do have an obligation to defend them. with respect to other syrian opposition forces, that's something we would have to discuss in a closed -- >> would the united states take action against russian planes if russian planes were attacking u.s.-trained units? >> just to repeat, we have indicated that we have an obligation, we have options to protect our people whom we have trained against attack. >> i would appreciate if you could provide us with some more
information for the record, specifically if the united states forces have the legal authority to intervene if assad's forces attack u.s.-trained fighters but not if russia attacks such fighters, if you could provide some clarification there specifically legal authority. >> we will do. but the short form is we have an obligation, i believe we have a legal authority to do that. but i'm happy to put that in more detail. then there are other aspects that you are alluding to that we would have to talk about in closed session. >> thank you. >> mr. secretary, before senator graham began his important line of questioning, i wrote in my notes, the opposition will never push assad out as long as russia and iran are all in.
i think that's just the reality. the question is, what do we do about that? there will be no -- we can't say, there will be a political solution, there will be negotiations. the negotiations will flow out of the military situation. they have shown they're not going to negotiate as long as they think they're solidly in power, which they clearly think they do. talking about a no-fly zone which would bring us in direct conflict with the russian air force races very large geopolitical questions. give me some more thoughts on senator graham's line of questioning. let's be realistic. wishing is not going to make a policy. assad is going to be there as long as russia and iran are willing to stay all in. how do we change their calculus? without a significant additional commitment of military power. >> two things. first of all, the russian
support to assad is having the effect of increasing and cat aliesing and motivating the opposition to assad. i believe that b/(g÷ the russias and the syrians will see the effects of that on the battlefield. you are right, there will be conditioned by a military situation on the ground. with respect to the political transition and at what point russia would recognize that its actions were fuelling syria's civil war and fuelling the extremism it fears, i can't say -- speak to that. that is what secretary kerry is exploring with the russians p. i can't say when and whether they
will reach that conclusion. >> they have to decide that isis is a bigger threat to them than the loss of assad. i don't know when that's going to occur. but a degree with you, that's the narrow diplomatic opening. but right now they seem to be trying to have it both ways. u as you point out, as long as they prop up assad they are propping up isis. >> this is the logical contradiction in their approach. i have said that from the day it started. i said that to the russian counterparts, why it's so wrong headed. at what stage they will recognize that, i don't know. i comment secretary kerry for talking to them and trying to find a different way. they have to reach that recognize. a part of that is learned on the battlefield and part of it learned in terms of extremism and how it is turned on russia. >> i think the question that the administration has to address is, how do we ratchet up pressure on assad to change the military calculus in such a way
that it's going to move that calculation. let me just change the subject for a minute. both of you used the term with regard to the iraqi army, capable, motivated iraqi forces. you have pointed out that this -- that's what's been missing in iraq. is there any likelihood that that's changing? >> there are some but not nearly enough. for example, the counterterrorism service, the iraqi counterterrorism service which has been trained by the united states over time is an effective, capable, motivated force. what we lack enough of in iraq are capable and motivated sunni forces. that is the type of force that is in short supply. and that is why it's so important that the government of iraq continue to recruit sunnis,
pay them. we will equip them and train them and will support them in the battlefield. it will require sunni forces to retake sunni territory. >> dois he giving lip service t this inclusion? if this isn't real inclusion, we're sunk. >> he has been consistent in what he has told us. >> are his actions bearing that out? >> you have to be -- i would have to be candid and say that, the prime minister does not have his complete sway over everything that happens in iraq. with have insisted that anything redo to support iraqi forces must be by and through the government of iraq. but very clearly -- you see it, there are militias of various kinds, shia militias that are
inadequately under the control of the government of baghdad. that's one of the challenges there. burt t but the forces we support are those that are under the control of the prime minister. i have talked to him and i believe he is sincere in wanting to do the right thing there. but, again, wanting to do the right thing and having a complete authority are two different things in baghdad. i think his authority is growing in that regard. but we do not yet have all the sunni forces recruited, paid, enrolled, trained and so forth that we need and want. >> i certainly hope we will use our influence to the maximum. if that inclusion doesn't happen, then this whole enterprise is for naught. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chair. gentlemen, thank you for being here today. thank you very much to your service. it's a very difficult time. general dunf roord, i was in
theater. you were in theater. i was very disturbed at what i see going on. it's a very tumultuous time. you did state that we need to take the fight to isil. we need to continue the momentum. it's concerning because to continue the momentum, we actually have to have momentum. the only group that has momentum is the kurdish peshmerga. again, everybody knows how i feel about this. they have been great allies to us. in testimony before this committee over the part several months, we have had many, many prestigious military, former military commanders and governmental officials such as general david petraeus, general mike haden, general jack keen.
all of them agree we need to enhance our support to the iraqi kurds as part of a more comprehensive strategy against isis. our current strategy piecemeals the weapons, equipment. we have so many types of calibers of weapons that's going from our coalition partners and the united states to the kurdish peshmerga. as a transporter, supported those forces, our forces in iraq, i know how difficult this would be for any army that we are piecemealing so much up to the peshmerga. what is our strategy to develop a more capable peshmerga force for the long-term fight for isis? secretary carter, if you could address that. >> absolutely. you are absolutely right.
kurdish peshmerga are an excellent example of capable and motivated ground forces. so they have taken and held territory. we support them and most recently, of course, in the operation conducted this past week. with respect to equipping them -- you know from your logistics background as you indicated very well that rapidity and certainty of supply are important to them. we have a policy of routing equipment to the kurdish peshmerga through the government of baghdad. and i think that's where the hinge on which your question turns, for the reason, to get back to what senator king was
asking earlier, that our approach to iraq is to try to support a multi-sectarian government in baghdad. so we're trying to do both, supply the peshmerga and support the prime minister as the leader of the country overall. now in the early days, that issue led to some delay in our supplies to the kurdish peshmerga. those delays do not occur now. so we -- bit way, it's not just us. i think there are more than 14 other countries shipping tons of equipment to the kurdish. >> quite a few. >> so i do not believe there now is a bottleneck in our supply to the kurdish peshmerga. we still do go through the routine of shipping through and with the permission of the government of baghdad for the very simple reason that we want
to stick up for the principal of -- >> we need to do a better job at this. general dunford, if i could turn to you. how do the iraqi security forces or the iraqi army -- how do their maneuvers fires and affects units compare to the kurdish peshmerga units? >> the best of the iraqis, the cts forces and some of the brigades we trained, compare favorably to the peshmerga. the peshmerga have competent forces. the best of the iraqis are comparable to the peshmerga. >> we're utilizing them to the best of our capability? >> we are. senator, that's an important question. the one thing that the commander told me is those brigades that we have put through training, there is a qualitative difference in their performance. there are two brigades that have gone through our training program. they have performed at a higher
level, as well as the cts. >> you believe that training and advising and assisting below the division level is important in any future operations? >> from a training perspective in particular, yes, senator. >> i do believe that needs to be part of our decision making process as we move forward. thank you, mr. chair. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general dunford, in your testimony you went over a number of areas that we need to focus on in our fight to defeat isil. you said that we need to do more to cut the flow of foreign fighters to isil. can you briefly describe what we're doing now and what more we need to do in this area? >> i can. i had -- we have a team on the ground. they're part of a ten nation coalition that's working on foreign fighters right now. it's mostly a military view of foreign fighters.
so when i sat down and spoke to that team, one of the challenges that became clear is that we really don't have amongst all the coalition a common view of where the foreign fighters come from, how they move back and forth into the area. more importantly, not much of a track on where they go once they leave. back to their home country. from my perspective -- this an area secretary carter and i talked to secretary kerry about. we need to do much more to get a view of foreign fighters as a whole and to make sure we maximize the legal, the military and the political tools that are available to us to cut off the flow of foreign fighters. >> is this an area that we're going to see some kind of a measurable improvement? >> senator, for me, when i came back from my visit, there are two areas that i think we need to focus on to move the campaign forward. two of many. the two that i personally gauge on is foreign fighters. the other is intelligence.
>> we're going to see some appreciable, measurable improvements. i know you can't talk about the intelligence side of things in this setting. second carter, in response to a question you said that the time frame for defeating isil better be soon. from everything that we understand, this is -- this area of the world is very complicated. so it is, i realize, difficult to really hone in, i suppose, on what a reasonable time frame may be. at the same time, with regard to assad, there were indications that he was about to collapse, his regime was about to collapse. now that russia has come in to bolster the assad regime, two questions, how long do you think that assad can be propped up by russia's actions? and two, do you think that putin
really is looking at a long-term scenario where assad stays in place? is he much more interested long-term in the stability of syria for russia's own interests? >> i can't say what putin is thinking about assad's future. but i can tell you what his behavior suggests. and that is that he is -- does want to support at least for now assad, avoid the collapse of the syrian state, which as you indicated i think he believed could occur. that was one of the things that spurred his support -- enhanced support for assad. i have told you what i think of that approach. i think that it has the -- it's
going to backfire, have the opposite of the affect that he is seeking. it enhances the opposition to assad and it also enhances the extremism he says he fears. so it's not a very sensible strategy. but that appears to be what his behaviors suggest. >> that appears to be his immediate goal. but i think that putin is also smart enough to figure out that if he really wants stability in syria, he may not be able to get it as long as assad is in power. i wanted to get to the no-fly zone. what would we need to do if a no-fly zone is declared in syria, what we need to do to make sure the no-fly zone sticks? either one of you. >> i will start. maybe the chairman can say. we have now for quite a while, preceding my time as secretary
of defense, analyzed the possibility of no-fly zones. i tried to give you some of the indication of some of the considerations there. that would involve operating in the part of the country which is not country which is not generally where we are conducting air operations now and where there are syrian air defenses. if we're going to put aircrews in that environment, we would have to take care of the air defenses. which is a substantial military under taking in its own -- >> so assad would not abide by a no-fly zone, we would be in direct conflict. >> i think you have to a assume the inherent no-fly zone would be contested by assad because the intent was to engage his air force. and just, again, to get back to senator graham's point, we have not undertaken to have u.s. forces engage to have assad's
forces in a war for control. >> and that's probably one of the reason -- >> syria. >> excuse me. with that kind of likely scenario is probably one of the reasons that we hesitate in creating -- >> a substantial and new military under taking. >> thank you. >> and likewise zones on the ground would have to be as well. there are implications to the declaration of such zones. we have thought them through, but we have not made recommendatio recommendations. >> thank you very much, chairman. >> what you are saying is the strongest military in the world can't establish a no fly-zone to bashir al assad. that is embarrassing. >> we could do it. >> of course we could do it. people like general petraeus, general keane and any other military leaders i know of, talking about having to shoot down. all we have to do is protect it and tell them not to fly into it. history shows they won't if
they're going to get shot down. senator? >> general dunford, the russian presence in syria has not affected the pace or the escape of on u.s. operations there. is that because the pace is slow and the scope is narrow? how does that happen when we have the administration saying we're not going to have any sort of conflicts with russian air presences in syria. it seems like it is affecting the pace and scope. do you agree with senator carter? >> because the russians are conducting operations to the west, we are not operating in the same areas as the russians right now. and we have had two or three incidents where we have had contact with russian aircraft. those proceeded the memorandum signed on the 20th of the month. >> i guess that goes back to what chairman mccain says.
we are not necessarily providing support to those not trained. we are trying to take the fight to assad where we are not specifically trained by us. >> that's correct, senator. we are operating in two different areas. >> i want to get to iraq. and specifically, in your meetings in iraq, first, i would like an update on iranian presence here. secondly, i have only been here for 10 months. and the discussion about having the iraqi government reengage the sunnis is already a broken record. is there any tangible evidence they have acted on the reengaging. >> we are very aware that is a necessary condition to be successful. we do have an inclusive government, inclusive of the sunni. there has been some progress. in the anbar province, train and
equipping 8,000 sunni. 5,000 have been identified and trained of that 8,000 number. so that is slow progress. >> is -- sorry, general dunford. i want to be sensitive to time. is there transactional or are there systemic changes that remain sustained and we bold on it? >> i can't tell you that i have seen systemic changes, senator. >> i don't think there is, senator? >> what about the iranian presence in iraq right now? what are they doing? what should we be concerned with? >> they still have provisional sources that are there? >> is that 1,000? >> you know, senators, the numbers have been bounced around. you say 1,000? i think there's more than 1,000 iranians on the ground in iraq. >> and in syria? >> we think the numbers are something less than 2,000 is our assessment. >> secretary carter, i appreciate you mentioning
sergeant wheeler. i know that he was from oklahoma. but he and his wife and four sons, including a 3-month-old live down in north carolina. and in that particular operation, you made a comment that those are operations that are probably occurring frequently, if not on a daily basis, frequently american soldiers are at risk. in my opinion, i think the peshmerga would consider that a combat operation. >> he was killed in combat. that wasn't the intent, obviously. he was accompanying those forces. but when he saw they were running into trouble, he very heroically acted in a way that all the reports suggest spell the difference between the success and failure of that important mission. >> thank you. my final question.
general dunford, were you consulted by the president before he vetoed the nda? >> i was not, senator. >> do you consider the nda, having been passed, either positive or negative to the men and women in uniform according to your efforts? >> is senator, i think my job is to identify the requirements we need to support the force. >> do you think some of those requirements were fulfilled by our passage of the nda? >> absolutely, senator. >> -- veto those requirements are not going to be fulfilled unless we come up with a solution. >> unless there is a solution. >> thank you. secretary carter, were you consulted by the president before he vetoed the nda. >> i was. >> what was your recommendation? >> to support his veto. i supported it. i'll tell you why. >> that was going to be my next question. >> two principle reasons. i started saying this in march.
and i believe -- >> mr. carter, i may be out of time. to the extent the chair will let you continue, i will defer to him. but are you telling then that you think that the president's veto leaves our military of the nda better off than with it? >> the president's veto of the ndaa is something that reflected two facts, just to get back to what i was going to say. one is we need, and i believe the department of defense needs, budget stability greater than a one-year horizon and a foundation of basis funding -- >> mr. secretary, nobody in this committee disagrees with you. that's a well-worn passion and discussions that goes all the way back to sequestration. but i find it remarkable, given the circumstances we're in now and the testimony today, that we would take a step back with this
nda while we continue to fight that fight. that will require a willing administration. one thing is clear to me, this administration is not willing to confront the challenges that these men and women have in uniform today. taking a step back in these dangerous times, i don't think makes sense. i respectfully disagree. thank you. >> if i can just say we need what i hope is going on now, which is a true budget agreement where washington comes together behind an honest, straightforward budget with some multiyear horizon. that's what the department deserves. that's what i have been saying for months. perhaps that is occurring as we speak. but i can only be honest and say what i think is best for the department. and that's honestly what we need. i realize that no individual member or individual committee can deliver that.
it requires a coming together of grid lock washington behind an overall budget deal. i fervently hope that occurs. i think there is some indication. i'm not involved in it. over the last couple of days that that might occur. that is what i have been urging ever since march. and i fervently hope that can occur. that's what the troops deserves. that's what the world needs to see. >> i would went out oko will be part of this agreement as well. mr. secretary, if you want to complete your answer, please continue. or have you completed it? >> there's just one other aspect that i'd ask the committee also apropos, ndaa, there are a number of reforms that we have requested for several years consecutively that have been denied in the authorization bill. >> for example? >> some is having to do with health care.
some having to do with adjustments in force structure. these are things a that the relevant armed services have determined are the optimal use of their resources. and the authority to carry out those reforms has been denied. and i just appeal to you not to -- to allow those reforms because it is the professional judgment of the department of defense, better use for those funds had. in years where it is difficult to find funding phau the federal government, we have to use every dollar we do get for best use. and we're not able to do that with some of the restrictions in the ndaa. that's another reason i would ask you to reconsider some of its provisions. thank you for the time to elaborate on that, senator. >> well, i'd also point out that